How good investigators, whether policemen or secret service analysts, do their job is a fascinating subject, as absorbing as reading the best of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. In The Adventure of the Silver Blaze Holmes noticed the odd fact, which the usual, clumsy official detective completely failed to comprehend: that, when the racehorse was stolen, the dog did nothing that night. It notably failed to bark.
When called to the attention of French counter-intelligence in 2016, it was not what the Russian vice-consul in Marseilles, Sergei Zheltikov, actually did that attracted the curiosity of the DGSI. But the fact that he was instead oddly inactive. Zheltikov was to all intents and purposes the invisible man. Not only did he not go out trying to recruit people for Russian intelligence, he scarcely engaged in any public activity at all. He did not interact with local Russian speakers. His photograph never appeared in any paper. He did not sign up to organised social activities for foreign consuls. Perhaps his real name was Oblomov. And, mirabile dictu, the authorities then found to their horror that he was not actually registered with the Quai d’Orsay at all. To a fussy Napoleonic bureaucrat this was nothing short of an outrage, a disaster. The sort of thing that could hasten an unexpectedly early retirement.
Instead of just throwing Zheltikov out of the country, however, as some kind of undesirable, an alien malingerer, some bright spark in the DGSI decided to wait and watch. They then set about tracing comings and goings of those in contact with him – I won’t try your patience with the list of Russia names – and that led the French, with the assistance of allied counter-intelligence agencies, to an entrepot for assassins from the (G)RU hidden in plain sight within, of all places, a playground of the rich and famous, in the French Alps, La Haute-Savoie (south-eastern France,) bordering Switzerland (Geneva and Lausanne) and Italy. At least that was where all the roads seemed to lead, without any apparent rhyme or reason.
A remarkable tale in itself, what is even more startling is to read the entire story (replete with necessarily sceptical comments, of course) itemised carefully at length in the hardline Russian newspaper Vzglyad.ru. It appears that the continued failings of the (G)RU have provided for its amused competitors within Russia a gripping saga worthy of a classic Sherlock Holmes adaptation by the BBC at its best.
Как контрразведка НАТО выследила «базу ГРУ» в Альпах
|5 декабря 2019, 17::15
Текст: Евгений Крутиков
From Le Monde:
La Haute-Savoie, camp de base d’espions russes spécialisés dans les assassinats ciblés
Une traque a permis de localiser quinze officiers du renseignement militaire. Certains y sont venus à de nombreuses reprises, en provenance de Londres, d’Espagne ou de Suisse.